Guilty Pleasures

Back in the days of my youth – when I had  lot more hair and the facial stuff didn’t display quite so much snowy colouring – I used to more or less court controversy with my tastes and views.

In my last year at school I even ‘stood’ as the candidate for the least supported (main) political party in my area, regardless of my own true views, simply to spark heated debate. In those dim, distant days, I thoroughly enjoyed the verbal cut-and-thrust – and that was before we were treated to the rise of the laughable BNP-Light. Or UKIP as they are also known.

My music tastes were never faked, however, and my eclectic collection was growing rapidly by the end of my teen years. So many of my contemporaries picked a certain ‘style’ of music and would argue vehemently, and rather ridiculously, that anything that varied from that genre was somehow less worthy. My collection included Queen (of course), Ian Dury and the Blockheads, The Stranglers, Edvard Grieg, Roxy Music, Carl Orff, the Electric Light Orchestra, Black Sabbath and Kate Bush. The sheer mix was enough to set certain heads spinning, but at least I always had someone to accompany me to concerts – and of those listed (who were still alive/performing at that time) I managed to see all of them on stage. Or at least, in one case, on a few soap-boxes in a pub.

I even owned an ABBA album – but that was strictly for parties.

My growing book collection was another weird mix in the eyes of many. Most could understand my taste for modern (then) horror fiction, but even those people could often become almost offended by the fact that I liked both English authors (James Herbert in particular) and American ones (Stephen King taking my personal top spot there). But when I mixed that with more science-fiction or fantasy based novels, a few autobiographies, a smattering of human/location fiction and some straight-up comedies, faces took on the look of confused rabbits.

Heaven knows what they’d make of my collections now.

Over the course of the last week, I have viewed, read or listened to music, documentaries and novels by many of those listed above (nostalgia just isn’t what it was, you know….) – and each and every one in digital format of one form or another (see my Dig the Digital post last week).

My point, really, is that I enjoyed every exposure (don’t go there) to the entertainment offered by these acts or writers. I never once thought that maybe listening to that or reading this was in any sense a ‘guilty pleasure’. I never have, never will. Particularly in this age when so much music and fiction is so easily available, it’s desperately important that people choose to listen to, or read (or both – I have books on disc for the car) things that they simply want to select.

For example, I liked some of the ‘glam rock’ of the 1970’s. Sweet and 10cc (as well as Queen) seemed to fall into that category and back then – and now – I was more than happy to listen to their sounds. Oddly enough I couldn’t stand Alvin Stardust or Gary Glitter – but I won’t claim to have had some inkling as to the sheer nastiness of one of those characters. I simply mean that I liked some sounds out of some genres – and chose to listen to them with a clear conscience. Some contemporaries would sit and listen to the Alan Parson’s Project, for instance, simply because Prog Rock was ‘their thing’ – even though it made no sense to (and provided no pleasure in) their poor young brains.

I was lucky back then that I had been taught (at home) to simply choose what I enjoyed rather than become a member of some pseudo ‘gang’ who would only select one genre or one style.The older I get, the more I understand that anything else is a sheer waste of time – and time becomes increasingly valuable as you age.

Over the past few weeks there have been the most ludicrous arguments raging over the pages of Twitter and Facebook about some of the most obvious and pointless things. Yes, Queen was an entirely different group when fronted by the irreplaceable Freddie Mercury – but the remaining musicians still want to play now and to create those wonderful sounds. It’s more than 23 years since Freddie’s untimely demise, so given that the music requires a vocalist, of course they employ the services of someone other than a dead person – and Adam Lambert brings his own style to the band. Given that the alternative is, ultimately, silence, how can anyone complain?

I like Queen and Adam  Lambert. Of course it’s not the Queen (that many of the arguers never heard live anyway) of the 1970’s or 1980’s – but it holds the essence of that incredible sound.

I’m not wasting my precious hours debating what is essentially, bleeding obvious – I’m spending them doing what I can to listen to sounds I enjoy.

I don’t believe in ‘guilty secrets’ and I don’t believe in selfishness, per se. But when it comes to things that entertain us, listen to what your heart truly desires and read what truly entertains you the most.

There’s a codicil here, though, and one that is almost as important as my message in the previous paragraph. Yes, I have developed a long list of ‘favourites’ over the  half-century or so I have been on the planet (I’m three weeks older than Coronation Street…) but I never close my ears and eyes when it comes to new sounds and new reads.

In the past few months (or recent years) I’ve added to my favourites lists – for example, Paloma Faith and Jessie J on the music front, and Andrew Holmes, Paul Magrs and  Ben Aaronovitch have become favoured authors. My lists grow and, particularly in this digital age when it’s so easy to sample new things before rating them for inclusion among your personal choices, the dynamism of those lists must never be lost. It sounds rather grand to say that the human condition should be one of growth and variance – but it’s true. Find people who share some of your tastes and see what else they like – chances are you will like some of the things as well, and if you allow it, your personal tastes will simply grow.

If you enjoy it – listen to it or read it – and to hell with what others say about your choices. Yes, we’re social animals (or at least, should be), but we’re also individuals in our own right – with our own individual tastes and likes. Make your own choices but then listen to others with similar tastes – and never ever, judge people based on what sparks their endorphin production. You might just find your own happy juices ignited in the same way.

We evolve – even in our tastes for entertainment.

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